Gay Key West

Key West 2016 is still gay - 5 gay bars, 4 gay hotels, a sauna, shops and 150,000 gay visitors a year. 30% of Old Town Key West is gay, and One Human Family is Key West's official slogan so diversity, tolerance and respect is part of the fabric. Sure, it's not as gay as the 1980s and some gays have moved out. Key West is a small town but has a modest but reasonable choice of gay options, it's very gay friendly here, and in a very beautiful place to visit. Updated: March 2017
Gay Key West is friendly, fun and busy with 5 gay bars all within walking distance of Duval Street. Picture above is the main bar in the Bourbon Street Pub on Duval Street in 2014

GAY MUST DO - RULE OF 3
As you read this blog on the wondrous gay scene of Key West, just remember the three gay things that you MUST do. In order:

First, the gay Tea Dance on Sunday at La Te Da - 4pm. Dance in the open air in the wonderful heat and the setting sun. One of the best gay tea dances in the world (and I am a connoisseur of this dying breed!).

Second, the lovely Bourbon Street pub and their even lovelier strippers. The main / busiest / biggest Key West gay bar. Every night, but don't get there until after midnight.

Third, the drag show at Aqua and the ultimate drag queen and supremo Inga. Classic. Hilarious.

Do all three. More details and links below.

WHERE IS THE GAY SCENE LOCATED?
The epicenter of Gay Key West is on Duval Street on the 800 Block (head for the intersection of Petronia Street and Duval Street and you'll see the rainbow flags). Here pretty much everything is gay: you'll find most of the gay bars, 2 gay fashion stores etc.


The gay crosswalks on Duval Street mark the center of the gay scene in Key West . 
GAY BARS
There are 5 gay and lesbian bars in Key West and most are on Duval Street. Here is the full list, in location order as you walk from Front Street up Duval Street: 
  • Aqua night club.  711 Duval Street, at Angela and Duval Street. It's the first gay bar you hit walking up Duval Street from Front Street but only open from 3pm and does not get busy until the evening, and not properly busy until their drag shows start. See DRAG section below.
  • Bourbon Street Pub complex, Key West. Not on Bourbon Street, but 724 Duval Street. This is the best place to start your gay exploring, open all day from 10am to 4am. Key West's largest gay bar complex. 2 main bar areas including pool out back. Friendly and caters for all.  See below for more details.
  • 801 Bourbon Bar. Located at 801 Duval Street. Opposite the Bourbon Street pub is 801 Bourbon Bar. Another bar that does not really get busy until the evening.
  • La Te Da hotel complex. La Ti Da is a great place, a 10 minutes stroll further on from the 800 block of other gay bars listed above but well worth the walk. There are 2 bars here and a restaurant, the terrace bar right on Duval Street so great for people watching.
  • Bobby's Monkey Bar.  900 Simonton Street. 2 blocks back from Duval Street and the bars listed above.  
  • Non gay bars. There are many to choose from. Some more gay friendly than others. (None non-gay friendly). I've written a post all about Key West's best martini and cocktail bars.
All bars close by 4am, there are no hard core nightclubs. If you want to dance Bourbon Street Bar is your best bet.

 LINK ON MY BLOG: Gay Hotels in Key West - click here

Bourbon Street Pub complex
You can't miss this large gay complex, it's large and welcoming in all respects. The front bar is open to Duval Street as you can see from the picture below and so great for an afternoon drink watching Duval Street go by.
Outside of the Bourbon Street pub

But there is more. 2 bars in the main inside section. Then walk down a narrow, short connecting passage (their back passage?) and you find an large(ish) outdoor area. This place is like Dr Who's Tardis - small on the outside and mysteriously large when you get inside! Carry on further and 
out back there there is a pool and large tiki bar.  


Night time, several cute go-go dancers on the bar will perform for you every evening after 11ish. Liveliest gay place in Key West. There is dancing on the small dance floor when it gets busier.
Regular special events at Bourbon Street pub. Here it's amateur strip night. He's hot, yes? I think he won!
Aqua
Best drag show in Key West, $10 cover charge. It's great - see below.

801 Bourbon Bar
Popular bar right opposite the Bourbon Street pub. There is a raunchier leather bar in the back, through a doorway, called Saloon1.

La Te Da hotel and bars

Best from 5 till 7 ish on the balcony while the sun goes down. Good place to talk to locals or ex-locals. On non-Tea Dance nights there is a separate restaurant area, behind the bar, outside but covered. Food is ok at their restaurant.

DRAG
This is a good bet for most visitors as it’s easy on the eye and very entertaining.  You’ve got 3 options:

#1 – Cabaret at La Ti Da
Christopher Peterson and Randy Roberts (alternate, days vary) do a show for 1.5 hrs in the season for $26. It's held in a special cabaret room upstairs at La Te Da and done very professionally. Randy is good and entertaining but, at this price, this option is probably only for those very keen on drag or wanting a really special night out.

#2 – Upstairs at 801
I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re only doing one show – really rough and ready, serial indignation!

#3 – Aqua, Duval Street- RECOMMENDED

I admit I have a thing for Aqua. I love it. A great show and very funny.  There is a cover charge (around $10 to get in, but negotiate hard especially in off season!). Read this post on the place. And this one on Inga, the prima drag queen. The pics are fab in both posts. It'll make you go - gay or straight or in between.
There’s 4 or more drag queens doing different impersonations, one after the other, the show is at least 1.5 hours long and well constructed / designed/ costumed.  There’s 2 shows a night (on busy nights) – the first at 9pm. 
In terms of clientele, it’s very mixed: straight and gay. After the show lots of people leave to go to Bourbon Street Bar (gay bar) over the road.

KEY WEST TEA DANCE - EVERY SUNDAY AFTERNOON at 4pm

This is really fun - 4pm Sunday. Dance on the deck in the open air.  It's at the La Te Da hotel on Duval Street.  For more, see my post on the tea dance.

GAY SAUNA
Island House is the only gay sauna. It’s got video rooms etc. By all accounts (I've never been there) pretty good. And very clean indeed, apparently.  Sunday is the best day to go – from early afternoon, it’s very busy with locals. 

Close up of the Island House resort entrance at the end of Fleming Street Key West
Island House Resort Key West from across the road.   You see the length (!) of the place - it's pretty big.
The other slightly heavier place is the back bar of 801 bar (it’s a distinct bar – go through the curtain at the back) which plays rock music and has some darkly lit corners.

NOTABLE GAY SHOPS
  • Leather Master of Key West. 418 Appelrouth Lane (half a block off Duval Street). Their line: "Toy shop for the adventurous".  
  • Towels of Key West - their Key West Conch republic towel looks fantastic and is also a really fantastic towel! Also cheeky t-shirts etc. And right next door (and run by the same gay couple is....)
  • Cocktails! Key West
  • American Boy Key West. 806 Duval Street.
  • Graffitti (sic.) menswear. 721 Duval Street. Hand picked fashions, picked by gay men for gay men. No straight man would dare to wear the swimming trunks this place sells!
THE GAY TROLLEY TOUR
Learn the gay and lesbian history and places of significance on this trolley tour. Departs 11am every Saturday. Gay or lesbian conducted/guided. You just sit there and look around on an open air bus that looks like a rail road trolley car – so it’s not hard work. Very entertaining and I highly recommend it. $25 per person.


GAY HOTELS AND ACCOMMODATION
There are nine gay hotels and guesthouses in Key West. Click here for full post on this.


HOW GAY IS KEY WEST?

Very. Being gay here is fine, cool, no problem. Totally accepted. But as I said earlier, Key West is a tiny place, and so there are NOT lots and lots of mega cool, trendy gay places. This is not Miami or even Ft. Lauderdale. 

The busiest gay time is in peak season (January to April), and especially at the weekend, when the bars are really packed and busy. Key West, and gay Key West, is much much less busy outside of these dates - see my post here on when to visit Key West.



KEY WEST COMPARED TO OTHER ‘GAY’ PLACES
In its vacation category you’d line Key West up with Provincetown and Palm Springs.
I certainly wouldn’t go to any 3 only for the gay scene; it’s just nice to have and also gives all these places a diversity loving culture. They are all very different places.

THE GAY OF YESTERYEAR IN KEY WEST

This place was mad! Key West has changed a lot in the last 30 years (who hasn't!). As has the gay scene. It is more commercial and smaller gay scene today, but it's still pretty gay. If you have not visited Key West for years you will likely notice a big difference - but still fun and definitely worth still visiting. I wrote a post on my reflections on the gay Key West of the past and how it's changing.



Please leave a comment on how you find the gay scene in Key West. I'd love to hear from you.



Other Key West things you might like on my site....


Key West hotels - hints, tips and recommendations


Things to do in Key West - best of list, with lots of pictures and reviews


My comparison of Key West vs Provincetown vs Palm Springs - here.